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Special Session Wish List

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By Ben Phillpott, KUT News

Austin, TX – The Texas Legislature comes back to town this week for what could be a short special session. The session can legally last up to 30 days - but Governor Rick Perry believes everything can get done in 3 or 4. That's because of the limited scope of work required for this session. KUT's Ben Philpott special interest groups around the state think there much more work to be done.

Only Governor Perry can set the agenda for a special session. And he says - all he wants to do is pass three bills that will fund and keep open the Texas Department of Transportation and 4 other state agencies. That's not enough for Eileen Garcia-Matthews.

Mathews: "Well there are quite a few things that went undone this session."

Garcia-Matthews is with Texans Care for Children. One of many groups calling for additional items to be added to the special session list. Garcia-Matthews is pushing for a Children's Health Insurance expansion bill to be added. She says CHIP is just one part of a growing list of problems with the state's social services system.

Mathews: "It is broken - and it's not going to get better. And it's actually going to get much worse. As we go further into this recession more families are trying to access those safety net programs."

Gene Hall and the Texas Farm Bureau have their own idea about what should go in the session. Hall says while some was done to improve the state's eminent domain laws in the 81st session - it wasn't nearly enough.

Hall: "Texas likes to think of itself as a property rights state. But until we tend to eminent domain reform we are only pretending to be a property rights state."

Governor Perry has been a strong supporter of new eminent domain laws. But that doesn't mean it or any other topics will be included. Ross Ramsey says most of the things that can happen to a governor in a special session are not good. Ramsey edits Texas Weekly - a political newsletter.

Ramsey: "Deadlocks - or you're fighting over this you're fighting over that. They just want to come in - change these expiration dates - o.k. these bonds - o.k. these public/private partnerships - and go home. And if they can do it in three days - before a holiday weekend - their theory is that they can slip in slip out before anybody notices."

Specifically anybody named Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. A rocky special session for Perry will quickly be translated into a campaign issue by Hutchison - who's expected to run against Perry in the Republican Gubernatorial primary next March.